So Many Lessons

By Garen Yegparian

I really hope this’ll be the last election related piece for a while. Three back to back on the same topic can become boring. But–it’s necessary.

The Armenian community is savoring a sweet victory right now. Paul Krekorian has won the Democratic Party nomination in the 43rd Assembly District of California–which houses the largest concentration of Armenia’s in an electoral district outside Armenia. But since I last wrote–much has transpired in this race beside the victory.

On Friday June 2–a despicable mailer–targeting the Armenian community and calling us terrorists hit selected homes in the 43rd AD. Which homes? Those of non-Armenia’s–of course. It points out that Tamar–Krekorian’s wife–is a "representative" of the ANC [Armenian National Committee]-whatever that’s supposed to insinuate. Then–the mailer proceeds to make a Burbank ANC project–"Books for Burbank," through which books were donated to the Burbank Public Library–seem sinister. Through all this it purports to connect Krekorian to terrorism. It bears the name of the California Latino Leadership Fund (CLLF) as the source of this "independent expenditure" mailer.

Of course the community–and all decent human beings–were incensed and a weekend of intense TV programming on local cable ensued. Some of our old friends–the EI’s (electoral idiots)–took their usual contrarian–destructive positions. They attempted to minimize the harm done by the mailer. They argued that Frank Quintero–the other candidate for the seat–was unaware of the "independent expenditure" mailer described above. As if all this were not despicable enough–on Sunday–June 3–automated calls commenced–conveying much the same message as the mailer.

As the cable TV battle between the sellouts and genuine representatives of Armenian interests raged–other efforts were bearing fruit. A number of elected officials representing parts or all of the 43rd AD issued letters condemning the mailer and the hate speech it utilized. But there was a strange silence too. Quintero–who claims to represent Armenian concerns–had nothing to say–at least until mid-day Monday when a poorly written condemnation was received in the ANC offices. The same letter was posted to Quintero’s website along with an equivalent sent to the CLLF. If someone is not familiar with the Armenian community and details of this issue–he/she would never know what the letter is about. The ANC (only as an acronym)–the mailer–and the issue as a whole are cited–with no clear explanation or references to what has transpired. It is assumed the reader knows.

Clearly–it is just a ploy–a facade to mask guilt. Otherwise–why would it take so long to issue a statement? Everyone knew about it on Friday. Why would it be so poorly written? Finally–why would the version sent to the ANC contain the sentence "We suspect this is another one of the Krekorian campaign’s dirty tricks" when the version on the campaign website did not? Why did the condemnation by Quintero and his defense by Armenian supporters focus on the Armenian community–not the non-Armenian community which had actually received the mailer?

Some of the connections suggested by following the money and probing the publicly available information about the CLLF are truly chilling. Add to this that over three weeks ago I’d heard that such a mailing was brewing but the Quintero campaign had been talked out of doing it by its Armenian supporters–at least one in particular. On election night I was told a first-hand story. The relater–upon learning of the mailer–had called one of Quintero’s Armenian supporters and told the latter of it. That supporter had replied "I told that… weeks ago not to do it," referring to a conversation with Quintero. But of course all this is hearsay; it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. But the court of public opinion has a different standard.

The backlash from all this hurt the Quintero campaign more than it helped. As it is–this dirty level of hit piece represents a last–desperate gasp by a campaign that knows it is fighting a losing battle. It came on the heels of polling information showing Krekorian leading significantly with very little time left till Election Day. So–they gambled–and lost.

It was heartening to hear story–from a non-Armenian–of friends she had who would have never voted for an Armenian. But after seeing the mailer–they voted for Krekorian. Couple this with the righteous indignation felt–because of this assault on our dignity–by an overwhelming portion of our community–and the action–voting–it engendered–and you have a fundamental cause for Krekorian’s victory. Ironically–if those who issued the mailer sought to break the developing strength of the Armenian community–they served the exact opposite purpose. It brought Armenia’s together in the service of a shared community interest–not the inane unity-for-unity’s-sake–but unified action backing up an appreciation of what was going on and what had to be done. It served to build our community.

Unfortunately–the news is not all good. Let’s start with the specific and expand to the general. Stepan Partamian–who was profiled by the Los Angeles Times and has become quite a cable personality with his acerbic descriptions and critiques of our community’s foibles and failings became a focus of the clash in this election. For the record–Stepan and I happen to have opposing Armenian political party affiliations. But–as a fundamentally decent human being–it is easy to relate to him and what he went through. His Monday morning show was cancelled because of repairs to the studio that were not completed on time. Fair enough. But that got cast into doubt when on his Tuesday morning (Election Day) show–while replying to another programmer’s criticisms of his positions regarding the campaign and deploring those Armenia’s supporting Quintero–Channel 26’s management (evidently pro-Quintero) turned off the audio to his program. It’s a call-in show–and he realized what happened. So he packed up his things–on air–and walked off fifteen minutes before the show’s ending time. He will return to the air Monday morning–June 12–on Channel 55. So much for freedom of speech–decency–and courtesy.

But that’s not the only lesson to be learned here. Clearly–we will always have slimy Armenia’s who are willing to do anything–not for our collective interests–but for either personal or partisan interest. The Hnchagian Party/Armenian Council of America’s support of Quintero seems to have been based on an approach of "wherever the ARF/ANC is–we’re not." While this is depressing–it’s not surprising–since we are human. It just behooves us to be aware of this situation and act accordingly. Perhaps in the future–some creative–preventive measures can be taken to avoid this kind of contentiousness within our community and allowing external political forces to roil it so much. But we are in a learning–growing process as we mature politically. The same is true of those who supported Quintero–not out of any vindictiveness–but purely self interest. As a practical matter–these considerations too must be integrated with our growth so to not fray our clout.

However–the positive approach I advocate in the preceding paragraph does not mean that the meddlers are off the hook. These–who attempted to play spoilers–be they inside or outside the community–must be taught a lesson. How is not quite clear to me–but political pain must be inflicted on those who stooped to unacceptable lows in this campaign. If not–I fear they or others like them might do the same thing in the future. The clear message "don’t mess with us" must be sent loud and clear.

Finally–to the extent that this became an Armenian-Latino clash–is something I do not advocate and find contemptible–pitting two disenfranchised groups against one another. But an interesting notion was posed to me. Could it be that this excited Latino voting interest less than that of Armenia’s because it is just another seat for Latinos–but the ONLY one for Armenia’s?

It has been an interesting electoral season–these last two months. Let’s all lick our wounds–rest–and prepare for the next round of political battle as we creep forward in our struggle to complete the triad of securing a free–independent–UNITED Armenia–that is regaining Western Armenia.

On a completely different note–those in the Los Angeles area on June 18 should seriously consider going to the Alex Theatre in Glendale for the premier of "The Long Journey from the NFL to Armenia," a documentary of professional football player Rien Long’s trip to Armenia and his connection to his Armenian roots. This is the kind of movie that bridges the gap between Armenian reality and what appeals to the average American. Go to www.gop.tv/rien-long.html for details.

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